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Transportation Spending Bears Down on Counties
Pilot project to bring transit to 99W and more

The 99W transit Corridor Pilot Project from McMinnville to Junction City is advancing with state and federal grant money. The State Transportation Improvement Fund identifies $9.5 million available and the State Transportation Network identifies $9.5 million available for this project. Each county along the route is incurring obligations to match those grant funds.

Planning is coordinated by the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation. MWACT has seven transit districts as members. Four of them would be involved with this Pilot Project. Public transportation is seamless along the I-5 corridor but not along 99W. The Pilot Project would fill in the gaps and eventually go to Hillsboro.

Yamhill County is geographically central to this plan. Yamhill participation would involve buying two new buses and incurring operating expenses. Yamhill County Transit currently goes to Salem and Tigard. Ridership is very low according to the MWACT report. Yamhill County can fill in holes on the map, but Yamhill County will incur new expenses which aren’t justified as measured by current demand by its citizens.

Reasons given for Yamhill participation include showing a spirit of cooperation with neighboring counties and fulfilling the state legislature’s goal of serving vulnerable populations. Another oft-mentioned reason is to dissuade people from the use of the automobile and the harm it brings to the environment and public health. Much of the actions to advance this pilot program have been on Zoom meetings. Minutes from the last meeting indicated that there was no public comment, no Oregon Transportation Commission comment and no comment from state delegations.

Plans to spend the grant money march on in this vacuum. Also within the purview of MWACT are Improvements to the Donald/I-5 interchange which will start around $1.2 billion. There’s no question about the heavy and increasing demand on that failed interchange. MWACT reports that current transportation operating funds are $720 million in deficit. Pursuing the 99W Pilot Project would add to the deficit and not provide a clearly demonstrated need.

--Tom Hammer

Post Date: 2021-01-06 14:15:00Last Update: 2021-01-06 20:03:59

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